Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Australia's High Court - transition


In Australia, Justices on the nation's highest court - - - the High Court - - - face mandatory retirement at age 70.   In the past few days, Justice Michael Kirby, seemingly  the first gay man on a nation's highest court, retired to be replaced by Virginia Bell, who is only (!) the fourth woman to sit on Australia's High Court.  As the the Sydney Herald asserts:

She is just the fourth woman to sit on the High Court bench, and joins two others currently serving, Justice Susan Crennan, who was appointed in 2005, and Justice Susan Kiefel, who was appointed in 2007.

That means that three of the seven justices on the Australia High Court are women.  The Sydney Herald story continues:            

But more has been made of her social justice credentials and comparisons with Mr Kirby, than the fact women could soon dominate the highest bench in the land.

As for Bell's "social justice credentials,"  she began "at the newly-established Redfern Legal Centre, where she later worked on landmark civil liberties cases and helped establish a prisoners' legal service," and after becoming a barrister, was appointed a public defender two years later.    Much has been made of her criminal law experience, something lacking in recent appointments to the Australia High Court.

J5_2Kirby celebrated his retirement with a stylish send-off and reportedly might be taking up a post at the UN in the near future.   




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